In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Social Work with Interpreters

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • History and Role of Interpreters
  • Social Work with Professional Interpreters, Dynamics and Context
  • Social Work with Ad Hoc Interpreters
  • Social Work with Informal Interpreters, Family
  • Special Populations, Refugee
  • Special Populations, Deaf
  • Special Populations, Direct Practice: Mental Health, Child Welfare, Family Settings
  • Special Populations, Courtrooms/Legal
  • Special Populations, Healthcare

Social Work Social Work with Interpreters
Nicole Dubus
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 July 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0299


Social workers help very culturally diverse populations. Therefore social workers are likely to work with language interpreters in various settings such as mental health agencies, healthcare settings, communities, and courts. Interpreters are persons whose role is to verbally or through sign language translate between individuals or groups who do not share the same language. A translator is a person who translates the written word from one language to another. Not all interpreters feel competent to translate writing, and not all translators feel competent to translate languages verbally. An interpreter can interpret verbatim or conceptually. There are professionally trained interpreters and informal interpreters. Professional interpreters have been trained and are hired to perform interpreted services in a variety of settings. Informal interpreters might be staff members who are bilingual, friends of the clients, or family members of clients including their children. There are clinical and ethical considerations that social workers must consider when working with interpreters, be they professionally trained or informal.

General Overviews

The literature on social work with interpreters is relatively thin considering the depth and scope of each subject. Therefore the resources discussed in this entry are intended to provide important concepts and issues that are relevant to social work with interpreters. For interpreting, Valero-Garcés and Tipton 2017 is an edited volume that explores macro areas of ideology, policies, and ethics in public service interpreting. It is written for interpreting students and professional interpreters. This is a good source for understanding the challenges faced by interpreter professionals. Raval and Tribe 2010 also discuss the interpreter’s experiences, knowledge, and skill but on a micro level working in mental health. The community interpreter is a role an interpreter is in often when they work with a social worker. Bancroft, et al. 2015 provides an international perspective for students and professional interpreters. Tipton and Furmanek 2016 discusses knowledge and skills needed in various settings. For social work knowledge and skills when working with interpreters, there are research articles that detail specific social work settings and with specific populations. The relevant articles will be listed within the areas of interest below.

  • Bancroft, M. A., S. García-Beyaert, K. Allen, G. Carriero-Contreras, and D. Socarrás-Estrada. 2015. The community interpreter: An international textbook. Columbia, MD: Culture & Language Press.

    This textbook is for students and interpreter professionals but social work researchers and practitioners can benefit from understanding the interpreter’s perspectives and the skills and knowledge they need in different mental health settings.

  • Raval, H., and R. Tribe, eds. 2010. Working with interpreters in mental health. London: Routledge.

    The text is for mental health practitioners to learn what interpreters do in various mental health settings and the context and theoretical frameworks that guide professional interpreters.

  • Tipton, R., and O. Furmanek. 2016. Dialogue interpreting: A guide to interpreting in public services and the community. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315644578

    This can be a useful source for understanding the different concerns for interpreters in different social work settings: legal settings, asylum procedures, healthcare settings, within classroom and education settings, child protection, social service settings, and faith-related settings.

  • Valero-Garcés, C., and R. Tipton, eds. 2017. Ideology, ethics and policy development in public service interpreting and translation. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

    This text delves into macro issues of the ideology and ethics of interpreting, as well as examples of how policies shape the practice and its effectiveness.

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